Captain America: The First Avenger

Synopsis: Captain America leads the fight for freedom in the action-packed blockbuster starring Chris Evans as the ultimate weapon against evil! When a terrifying force threatens everyone across the globe, the world’s greatest soldier wages war on the evil HYDRA organization, led by the villainous Red Skull (Hugo Weaving, The Matrix). Critics and audiences alike salute Captain America: The First Avenger as “pure excitement, pure action, and pure fun!” (Bryan Erdy, CBS-TV/Movie Planet)

Captain America: The First Avenger 8.25

When I first heard that they were bringing Captain America to the big screen, I was filled with a mixture of bewilderment and apathy. As a character that I’ve never really found interesting, and given the times we’re in, he seemed like a poor choice to tap for box office stardom. So what were they thinking? And who do they think cares about this character SO much that he deserves a feature film?

Then I heard that Chris Evans was tapped to play the superhero.

Wait-a-minute? Chris ‘Not Another Teen Movie’ Evans? I mean, granted, he had already played Johnny Storm, the Human Torch, twice, had played yet another superhero in ‘Push’, and was in another comic book adaptation in ‘The Losers’, but could this guy be Captain America? We’re talking quite an iconic figure in the comic book world, boring as he may be.

I was sceptical.

Even recently, when I read an interview in which he was basically told to expect stardom after this film and that he had to choose between keeping his here-to-fore hard-fought privacy and doing this movie, I scoffed and wondered who the twit was who told him this. I mean, surely this film would get its butt kicked and become nothing more than a blip on the radar – especially since it was scheduled a week after the release of the final Harry Potter movie, which I expected to rule the box office for at least 3 weeks.

I was SO wrong. On all counts.

The movie may not have kicked Harry Potter’s butt, but it did take its place at “numbero uno” upon release. And reviews were actually pretty good. Surprisingly so. I started to reconsider my position and decided I would give the darned thing a try.

Well, my biggest surprise, beyond its success, is just how convincing Chris Evans is. I mean, I’ve always liked the guy – he was memroable in ‘Teen Movie’ and a STANDOUT in ‘Sunshine’ and has provided rock solid, if slightly nondescript, performances in many films. But I never expected him to inhabit this character as well as he did.

It turns out that he is so perfect as Captain America that I can’t imagine ANYONE else playing him. He plays Steve Rogers so earnestly that he inhabits the role almost in the same way that Christoper Reeve did Superman; frankly, he’s almost in the same league. He basically made me believe a man can run around with the stars and stripes emblazoned on his body and carry a shield for defence. He’s THAT good.

The patriotism imbued in the film would be stomach-churning if it were taken out of context (it takes place during WWII, after all!) and if not for Chris Evans’ earnestness. He makes you long for the old-school form of heroes – the ones we haven’t seen since ‘Dirty Harry’ first drew his .44 Magnum Smith & Wesson and changed everything. Honestly, I like both. But there hasn’t been a hero like Captain America in forever, and they managed to sell it just right here.

They also sold Steve Rogers’ tranformation into a super soldier very well. At his heart he remains the same, forever intent on doing what he considers to be the right thing, and ultimately that’s his key component. But the way they managed to skinny him down for the first part of the film with CGI was about 90% realistic – a MUCH larger success than I expected, based on the pictured I’d seen (which proves that context is everything).

His metamorphosis into Captain America was also handled deftly: they found a way to explain his gradual use of a shield and the donning of a superhero suit just perfectly; it’s done in credible steps that would make realtive sense. It’s not just: ‘Here’s a bright suit, boy! Now go be a walking target!”. And, finally, the get-up he settles on is a good combination of the comic book character and real-life. It works.

The villain, The Red Skull, was also done just right. I always found him dull in the comic books but Hugo Weaving doesn’t do “dull”. He leapt off the screen every time I’ve seen him, and this is no exception – even behind a combination of make-up and CGI. He walked that fine line between awe-inspiring genius and maniacal glee. Brilliant. Plus he wears a wicked-looking coat that I wish were my own.

Did I fail to mention that the costumes are excellent?

I also adored their choice of Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter; she’s attractive, but not a Hollywood starlet, and she fits the bill (while I don’t remember the comic book character, she fits the period and the context). Plus she can act. So many action movies make choices based on entirely different reasons (I can list ANY Michael Bay film as example!). That was refreshing to me.

Okay, so the film was a tad formulaic by bits, but I didn’t feel that it was frequent enough to stick in your craw. As well, the humour wasn’t over-the-top or too cheesy. AND the action sequences were exciting without being so over-the-top that you stop caring (Hello, Michael Bay and George Lucas!). Overall, they struck a good balance.

In the end, I found ‘Captain America’ to be one of the more successful superhero films (including the massively under-rated ‘The Incredible Hulk’), in interpreting the material AND in balancing all the elements to make it fun, somewhat substantial, and exciting.

‘Captain America’ was filled with a certain naive idealism of the “gosh darnit” variety and yet it remained convincing throughout. So check your cynicism at the door and have fun with its old-school heroism: that’s what ‘Captain America’ is all about.

Frankly, I’m as surprised as anyone, but, not only did I enjoy it… I’m actually looking forward to the sequel.

What do you think?

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